At the Lamp-Post
You stand in the very heart of Lantern Waste, at the base of the lamp-post that gave this area its name. The clearing here is not particularly large, but there is a strange, almost eerie quality about it. The air is calm — quiet even — as if there is some reverence surrounding the lamp that even the environs respect.
The lamp is lit, casting a warm glow across the glade. Who lit it and how it remains lit is a mystery, but it shows no signs of faltering. To the south, you can hear the distant sounds of flowing water. A faint path leads through the trees to the east and west.
Ayla is seated on her haunches a foot or so from the lamp post, her tail curled around her feet, brown eyes surveying the urban wonder with a sad sort of contemplation. Creatures scurry through the trees around, but the small she-wolf holds her vigil, still and silent, ears pricked forward, no other aspect of her posture displaying any immediate awareness of anything beyond the lantern she has taken up company with.
Lanisen passes through, stepping off the path to enter the forest to the northeast. His eyes settle briefly on the Lamp-post, then avert just as quickly. He slows and stops, catching sight of Ayla, and tilts his head.
Ayla’s ears prick up at the footsteps before she swings her head around to fix her stare on Lanisen. “Lanisen, Son of Adam,” she states quietly. “Well met once again.”
Lanisen says, “Just Lanisen.” He tips his head at her. “I thought you didn’t come out much.”
“I don’t, generally,” Ayla admits, turning her eyes back to the lamp post. “Sometimes I come and sit here though. It is where they appeared. Where they left. I suppose the cub part of me hopes that if someone just waits for them, they will return.Or the Great Lion will send us word they are at least happy. It isn’t meant to make sense, but it is quiet and peaceful, if a little sad, and I can live with that.”
Lanisen’s face falls a little. “Oh,” he murmurs, and shifts his weight. “Can I sit with you?”
“Of course,” Ayla responds quietly, flicking the tip of her tail at the ground nearby. “The company would be welcome.” She looks up at the lit lantern in the lamp post, then bows her head. “I know they will not return,” she comments. “But I also do not want to forget.”
Lanisen sits down slowly, cross-legged. “Yeah,” he agrees.
Ayla is quiet for some time, though it is a calm, still sort of quiet rather than one filled with the unspoken. “Everything is in chaos,” she muses after a time. “It is nice to sit in silence and just remember them. Without the fear of what their loss will bring. What they brought matters more, I think.”
Lanisen shifts and shakes his head. “It’s not, it’s truly not,” he says earnestly. “It’s– it’s uncertain, yeah, but it’s… Narnia’s full of good people. People’re still… goin’ about their days, takin’ care of their families. It’s been all right.”
“That’s good to hear,” Ayla remarks after taking a long few moments to absorb Lanisen’s words in her quiet way. “I don’t leave the den much, so what I hear, I hear from passing creatures. The way they spoke led me to believe things were a touch worse than that. It heartens me to realize Narnia is remaining strong.”
Ayla seems content with Lanisen’s nod. Leaves crinkle beneath her as she folds herself onto the ground, resting her nose on her paws. Her tail wags lazily behind her and her lips curl back over her teeth in a small, wolfy smile. Her ears flatten as she sighs contentedly, clearly more than happy to share companionable silence without the pressure of words.
Lanisen asks, “Did you ever meet ’em?”
Ayla shakes her head. “Alas, nay,” she murmurs. “I have always been reclusive since losing my mother and being drawn into Ulfden. If they came to Lantern Waste, I was not aware, and I have never traveled much further than the riverbank yonder.” Her tail flicks southward. “Did you?”
Lanisen says, “A couple times, I did.”
“I wish I had,” Ayla remarks. “But regretting it won’t change anything. I am glad you got that experience. They were wonderful rulers.” Turning her head, she surveys her companion briefly. “Are you new to Lantern Waste?” she queries. “I’ve rarely run across you before.”
Lanisen bites his lip and seems about to address something she’s said, but pauses to let her finish. “I was here for a few months earlier this year,” he answers. “And then for a while last year.”
Ayla flicks her ears. “I really must get out more,” she chuffs, pawing at a leaf.
Lanisen grins and looks down.
Ayla huffs out a breath again, the flash of her own grin her only response. Pressing her nose to the ground, she sniffs about idly for a few moments.
Lanisen watches her, then draws up his knees loosely and looks back up at the Lamp-post.
Ayla does the same after, it seems, ascertaining that nothing all too interesting has passed by. Time passes and contemplation seeps back into the she-wolf’s expression. “Which of the Kings and Queens did you speak to most?” she queries after some time.
Lanisen draws a breath. “Queen Susan and King Edmund,” he answers after a hesitation.
Ayla nods, ears pricking toward the trees as if listening to something there within. Her head cants in that direction briefly before she gazes back up at the lamp post. “Good Kings. Good Queens,” she muses quietly.
Lanisen says softly, “Yes. Very good. Very wise and very kind.” He pauses, studying the ground in front of him, then offers, “Would you like to hear somethin’ King Edmund told me?”
“I would like that,” Ayla remarks quietly, glancing sidelong at Lanisen before following the pathh of a squirrel darting through the brush. “I should like that very much.”
Lanisen hesitates, moistening his lips before he speaks. “We were talkin’ about… about somethin’ else, somethin’ I was hopin’ for, it’s not important. He said… he said to look to /now/, to look to what needs doin’ now, and what’s happenin’ now around us. He said to think about the future and not get stuck thinkin’ only on the past.”
“King Edmund was always very wise, I have heard,” Ayla comments, gazing sorrowfully up at the lamp post. “The wisest of the four.”She falls silent, her tail lashing the ground briefly. “His words are true. Mother said the past can shape us but it is the present that teaches us. The future, well, I expect that’s just comprised of a lot of now’s.”
Lanisen considers this. “I don’t know,” he answers. “I think we can learn a lot from the past. We shouldn’t forget their majesties, and it’s– we /should/ mourn ’em, they were–” He shakes his head slightly, unable to find the right words. “Even, even Aslan said we should mourn ’em. But I don’t think they would like to think we were missin’ ’em so badly we can’t think of anything else.”
Ayla is silent for some time after these words, bowing her head. “Mourn them we do. I think…” She hesitates, picking through her words. “I think… there’s a line. between living in the past and learning from it. I… I don’t think forgetting is an option. What we remember teaches us. But… There is a line. I’ve had issues with it in the past. Many do from time to time.”
Lanisen says softly, “Yeah.” He draws a deep breath of the afternoon air and looks up at the sun glittering through the leaves. “I’m meant to be gatherin’ coneflower and violet leaves for Panacea. Want to come?”
Ayla pushes herself up onto her haunches after stretching languidly. “Yes, that sounds like fun,” she says. “You can show me what those are.”
Ayla paws at the ground with a small wolfish grin.
Lanisen gets to his feet with a grin. “If we find any, I will,” he agrees, and starts off the barely-traveled track into the woods to the northeast.